A few days ago the adult dating website, Ashley Madison, was hacked. Ashley Madison is a site designed for married people wanting to have an affair – they do not deny this, their slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair”. Ashley Madison claims to have 37 Million members. So there must be a lot of very nervous cheating men and women out there today!
The Impact Team
The hackers call themselves the “Impact Team”. They have threatened to release details from profiles including customers sexual fantasies, credit card transactions, real names and addresses and also emails. The hackers have demanded that the site be taken offline otherwise this info will be posted on the net. They had already posted a sample of this data, 49 Megabytes of it, online but this information has been removed. Ashley Madison is estemated to have about 175 000 South African members.
Accurate infidelity statistics are hard to obtain due to the secretive and often shameful nature of infidelity. The following are some well supported findings relating to America.
- Between 30% and 60% of married individuals will have an affair at some stage in their relationship.
- About 2% to 3% of children are the product of infidelity – most of these are unknowingly raised by men that are not their biological fathers.
- Infidelity is increasing among people under 30.
- Men are more likely to cheat than women.
- Office romances are increasing.
- The origins of sexual jealously are thought to be the result of infidelity having been around for a very long time.
Can the relationship be healed?
According to an article quoted in Readers digest, infidelity is the major cause of divorce – more common than emotional ability and even physical abuse. The good news is that, as long as the correct steps are taken, over half of married couples survive the infidelity.
Doctor Janis A. Spring has the following advice on how to help your marriage or relationship survive infidelity.
- Be Honest – When infidelity is discovered it is very important for the wronged party to be able to detail their grievances to their partner. This should be an “unsparing and emotionally raw declaration”. The wronged party needs to be able to discuss their pain and to feel that they have been heard.
- Bear witness – The adulterous partner must be able to own up to and face the hurt that their action has caused. Because the unfaithful partner often feels extreme guilt and fear that irreparable damage has been done, they often urge their partner to put this behind them rather than giving them enough time to grieve. Doctor Spring insists that the offender should “bear witness” to the pain rather than trying to defend or deflect the impact. This willingness is vital to the process of rebuilding trust.
- Give your partner a written apology – After listening openly and understandingly the adulterer has listened openly and understandingly the cheater should repeat what he or she has learned. Then they should write a very detailed and specific letter to prove they understand the hurt they have caused. Dr. Spring recommends “They have to prove they’ve heard and understood their partner on the deepest level, and that means citing very specific examples of how they’ve hurt them and then taking actions to prove they will not do so in the future.”
- Forgiveness takes time – the offended party should not try to forgive too soon. Sometimes the desire to save the relationship and not lose a partner leads to what Doctor Spring terms ”Cheap Forgiveness”. If they do this they do not allow themselves time to grieve and get over their anger and hurt. This too quick forgiveness can also lead to further infidelities by their partner in future.
- Share responsibility – although the adulterer should acknowledge responsibility it is also important for the offended party to accept any responsibility for any other problems in the relationship. Perhaps they had some small part in causing their partner to feel isolated or lonely.
- Set Rules – Doctor Spring suggests that ironclad and non-negotiable rules should be set at the beginning of the healing process. Examples include a rule that the partner should always answer their cell phone even if unable to have a full conversation. Or if the affair began online that they should let their partner see what they are doing if they are online at home. This intentional power imbalance will lessen the insecurity and mistrust that the hurt partner is feeling. It will also show that the cheater is willing to give up certain rights in order to mend the hurt.
- Redefine sexual intimacy – the effects of adultery are often felt most strongly ‘between the sheets’. The offended person will often feel that they other person is present like a ghost in the bedroom. Feelings of guilt often interfere with the adulterer’s performance in bed. Their partner, already feeling rejected, may feel that their partner no longer finds them attractive. An ongoing and open dialogue regarding sexual fears and desires should be started in order to rebuild physical intimacy.
- Reality check – it is common for partners who have been cheated on to feel that their relationship is uniquely dysfunctional. The reality is that the majority of long term relationships experience at least one instance of infidelity and many survive. According to Doctor Spring many couples emerge stronger and closer after the issues of the hurt have been worked through.
- Letting go – it is important for the wronged person to eventually release the tight grip on the rules that were set in point six above. And also important to be able to release the pain and to move forward in a relationship built on newly forged trust and respect.
All of the above takes time and it may be up to a year and a half before the relationship fully recovers. There will also be good and bad days and progress may not be steady but if both partners continue to work at rebuilding the trust they will both emerge as stronger and more caring people.